Economic crisis in Sri Lanka: hospitals on the verge

economic crisis in the island nation
Sri Lankan hospitals on the verge: “What should I do? My child may not live long yet”

Scene from a hospital in Sri Lanka (archive image)

© Shan Xijiangongjituan / Xinhua News Agency / Picture Alliance

Sri Lanka is suffering from a severe economic crisis. A report from a hospital now shows how dire the situation is for people in the Indian Ocean island nation.

The petrol and diesel problem is limited to 20 liters per car, there is a shortage of food, there are repeated power outages and the country is insolvent: the island state of Sri Lanka is in the worst economic crisis since its independence in 1948 – the consequences for around 22 million people in the country are becoming more and more dramatic. The Red Cross in the country fears an “unprecedented humanitarian crisis”.

Report from the Sri Lankan hospital

A service from US broadcaster CNN uses a clinic in the capital Colombo to show what the shortage already means in the country. According to this, doctors sometimes have to operate in the flashlight glare of their cell phones, medical devices such as ventilation tubes or catheters need to be reused, and the most necessary medicines are missing.

Experts speculated that the number of deaths from lack of medical equipment could exceed the number of 16,000 deaths from Covid 19 in Sri Lanka: “This is a crisis and we cannot predict how serious it will be,” Athula Amarasena of the State Pharmacy Association said. to the issuer.

Meanwhile, the parents were hoping for drugs that could mean survival for their children. A three-year-old girl urgently needs an antispasmodic drug, a seven-year-old girl needs a chemotherapy drug for her. But preparations are not available anywhere in the country, the desperate parents told CNN reporters. “Even with money you can’t do anything,” said one father. Another: “What should I do? My child may not live long if he doesn’t get the drugs.”

The shortage also weighs on medical staff. “We have had to make difficult decisions, especially in the intensive care unit, such as who can live and who can’t,” a doctor told the broadcaster. “We can continue to take patients, but we have no way of treating them.” Among other things, there is a lack of narcotics.

Despite reports of the drastic conditions in the country’s hospitals, the government has long tried to appease. In the meantime, however, the lack of some medicines and devices has been recognized. “I would describe it as a challenge and not yet a crisis,” a Health Ministry representative told CNN and promised that the shortage would be resolved within two weeks.

There are doubts about it. The Sri Lankan government is currently proving unable to act. Many residents are now calling for the replacement of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, his brother. The heavily indebted state does not have the financial means for imports from abroad. Debt restructuring efforts are now underway. Talks with the International Monetary Fund will be held in Washington next week. The country is also hoping for further financial aid from China and India.

Many feared deaths

The government has also called on its citizens living abroad to transfer money home. The central bank guarantees that the money “will only be used to import essential goods such as food, fuel and medicines”. The country will spend 200 million dollars (185 million euros), which would have had to pay interest on loans from Monday, for such imports, the head of the central bank assured. Prime Minister Rajapaksa warned his country against returning to civil war amid protests.

In an open letter, the Sri Lankan Medical Association warned of something else. “Without urgent supplies of supplies, emergency treatment may need to be stopped within weeks, if not days.” This “will lead to a catastrophic number of deaths”. It is a look at the abyss into which the country’s health system is about to fall.

Sources: CNN, AFP and DPA news agencies

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